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Wine FAQ

Curious about wine lingo or decanting wine? Our H-E-B Wine Buyers have answers to the most frequently asked wine questions.

  • Question: How is wine made?


    Three-step breakdown of how wine is made

    1. Grapes are crushed to release the sugar in their juice. The juice naturally ferments when yeast comes in contact with the sugar in the grape juice. The result is alcohol and carbon dioxide.
    2. The fermented wine is then separated from the grape solids and transferred to a vat or casks where it is clarified, stabilized and taken through optional processes.
    3. Finally, wine is bottled.

  • Question: How does wine get its color?


    Naturally, the color of wine comes from the grape.

    • • Red wine is made with dark-skinned grapes and fermented with the grape skins.
    • • White wines are made with white grapes. However, if made with dark-skinned grapes these grape skins are removed prior to fermentation.
    • • Rosé wines have contact with the skins of dark-skinned grapes just long enough to impart a pink color.

  • Question: Where does cork come from and why is it used to stop wine bottles?


    Corks are produced from the bark of Cork Oak trees. It's unique because it can be peeled from a tree without hurting the tree. It is used to stop bottles because it's light, elastic and impermeable to most liquids and gases.

  • Question: Why do some wines have sediment in them?


    Most forms of sediment are naturally occurring and completely harmless, often indicating a fine wine which has a certain amount of bottle age.

    Red wines can have sludgy sediment which falls to the bottom or may sometimes stick to the sides of the bottles. Both red and white wines can form tartrate crystals, which may fall to the bottom or attach to the underside of the cork. These are sometimes mistaken for glass fragments, but they're completely harmless and tasteless—you can even crunch a few!

    Most modern, mid-priced wines are stabilized and filtered to avoid any sediment forming within the first few years in the bottle. If the label on the bottle says "unfiltered" or has visible sediment, you should decant it.

  • Question: What is corked wine?


    It is a misconception that corked wine is wine with small bits of cork floating in it. A corked wine is actually when a wine is musty and woody and lacks fruit. It may also have a bitter aftertaste. There are different degrees of corked wine and some people have a greater sensitivity to it. If a wine is corked, it may make you think the wine is bad or faulty, when in fact it isn't.

    Corked wine can occur when natural corks are washed with chlorine. This can also come from the winery, especially if chlorine is used as a cleaning agent. To reduce this problem, winemakers have started turning to screw caps or synthetic corks. However not all corked wine is a result of the cork itself. It could be a result of the barrel.

  • Question: What are wine faults?


    Some faults are visible; others can be smelt or tasted.

    • • Haze or cloudiness - If a wine remains very cloudy or hazy even after it has been standing upright to let the sediment fall, this is probably due to the growth of yeast or bacteria, perhaps the result of inadequate filtration.
    • • Fizziness - Many young white wines are bottled under carbon dioxide to keep them fresh and there may still be a slight spritz when you come to drink it. This is not a fault and is common with dry wines. However, if a wine fizzes when it shouldn't, it may indicate the wine has started to ferment again. This is definitely a fault.
    • • Mustiness - This generally indicates a corked wine.
    • • Vinegary wines - These are the result of acetic acid due to the activity of yeast and bacteria and the exposure to oxygen.
    • • Mousy flavor - This is usually due to the activity of the type of yeast known as brettanomyces. Some tasters find it adds a savory complexity or earthiness, but to others it is a fault.

  • Question: What are tannins?


    Tannins are the natural organic grape compounds (grape skins, seeds and stems) left behind in wine from the winemaking process. Tannins are more commonly found in red wines, due to lengthier contact with the grape skin and the method of extracting the grape's juice. Tannins are a natural preservative and give wine texture and complex flavor. The tannic flavor in wines has been described as bitter, woody and dry. If oak barrels are used for wine aging, the barrels can also impart a tannic flavor in the wine.

  • Question: How is Champagne made?


    After harvesting and pressing the grape, Champagne is made by:

    • •Fermentation - The still wine used as the base for Champagne is made similar to other white wines.
    • •Blending - The most important step, the winemaker must select which grapes to blend from what regions. This produces the best wine possible.
    • •Liquer de Tirage - A blend of sugar and yeast is added to the wine to begin second fermentation.
    • •Second Fermentation - This is where the bubbles in Champagne are produced. However, this process also produces sediment.
    • •Aging - The amount of time the wine ages with sediment also determines the quality of the Champagne.
    • •Ridding/Disgorging - The sediment is moved to the neck of the bottle and then removed.
    • •Dosage - A blend of wine and cane sugar is added to the bottle. The amount of sugar determines the sweetness.
    • •Finishing - Cork is inserted and finished with the wire cage and foil.